When I suggested to Chris about looking at new suppliers, I didn’t think we’d be meeting at 4 am to go and visit a couple in Birmingham. And in hindsight, Chris is definitely an afternoon person.
Anyway I digress, Birmingham’s wholesale food markets date from 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter permitting him to hold a market at “his castle at Birmingham”, though later members of the de Birmingham family claimed that markets in Birmingham had been held since before the Norman Conquest. It was this market that provided the first impetus to the growth of Birmingham as a commercial town from the twelfth century onwards.
Increasing congestion in the markets area, coupled with the demolition of the Fish Market for the construction of the Bull Ring Centre in 1958 and the increasing inadequacy of the Smithfield and City Meat markets, led to post-war plans to develop a new wholesale market complex. Tenants moved into the Pershore Street Market in 1974.
A new phase in the history of the market has now begun as the market has relocated to new premises on the Hub industrial estate in Witton, designed to offer a 21st century wholesale market environment. This released the old site for redevelopment in the city centre and provides an exciting, vibrant location for the wholesale market to flourish in the west midlands for the future.
Birmingham Markets is one of the largest integrated wholesale markets in Europe, providing fresh produce to restaurants, hotels, fast food outlets and local retailers across the Midlands and Wales. Given its Royal Charter in 1166, the Markets remain a dynamic and vibrant part of the Birmingham city economy, offering a cost-competitive source of fish, poultry, meat, fruit and vegetables and flowers. With its commitment to quality, Birmingham Markets offer local producers an international market in which to trade.
We arrived at 5 am and had a good look around for over an hour, along with the usual staple fruit & veg it was great to see specialist importers, serving the various communities in Birmingham. I must admit, I’ve never seen sugar cane being sold at any market, but it was great to see such diversity under one roof. So if you do ever need sugar cane or plantain for that matter, you know who to come to.
We then travelled a couple of miles up the road to visit my old friend Mel who works for Kingfisher Fishmongers. Kingfisher are experienced fishmongers, supplying quality fresh fish and seafood to the catering industry throughout Birmingham and the Midlands. They source, prepare and deliver fresh and frozen, fish and seafood; directly to professional kitchens. They supply all types of establishments from Michelin starred restaurants, hotels, pubs and retail outlets. You simply don’t come across many people like Mel, her customer service is legendary and what she doesn’t know about fish isn’t worth knowing. She is also a fantastic baker; in fact, that could be a separate blog post all together!!!!
We got the grand tour and spent over an hour in the prep rooms, looking through what species are currently available, and discussing our prep and packaging requirements. As many of you know, sustainability is key to what we wish to achieve at Vale Veg Box. So, it was interesting to hear Kingfishers approach and how they work with the Marine Stewardship Council and Marine Conservation Society, they support their work, and do not buy endangered species such as wild halibut, bluefin tuna and shark to name a few. They also have full traceability on all of their products, this even includes who has prepped your fish.
We even got Chris to dress up………but he wouldn’t go near the lobsters!!!!
We plan to work with Mel over the next six weeks or so to provide a range of fish and seafood, we’ve had some great suggestions so far, so please, keep them coming.
So a busy morning, but a really worthwhile day. It’s really important to us that we know our suppliers, so if you do have questions we hopefully know most of the answers. If not, we know where we can get them.
The next week or so is full steam ahead on the website, with further updates and some testing for the lucky few.
Much Love Stu